Students in a test group were given simple tests, during which various noises, including cell phones, sounded.
When a cell phone rang, test scores dropped. When the other noises sounded, students were distracted, but their scores were not affected.
The experiment found that performance suffered most when the ringtone was something familiar, like a popular song. In the case of this study, it was the LSU fight song. Students hearing that tune took the longest time to clear their heads of the audio distraction.
By sheer numbers, the study has widespread implications. In the United States alone, more than 262 million people use cell phones.
Writing in the "Journal of Environmental Psychology", Jill Shelton, the study's lead author, concluded that because cell phone usage is so prevalent, people have this automatic reaction to respond to them, thus the distraction of ringtones, even from another person's device.
HealthDay News contributed to this report.